As COVID-19 swept the world in 2020, the Philippines became Southeast Asia’s most affected country.
RTI International has been supporting the COVID-19 response in the Philippines through ReachHealth, a five-year United States Agency for International Development (USAID) project that strengthens and improves access to family planning and maternal and child health services.
Building on 14 years of RTI experience working with local governments in the Philippines to improve health outcomes, the USAID ReachHealth Project supports the COVID-19 response in 15 priority local government units across the country. Working closely with the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Interior and Local Governance, UN agencies, the private sector, and civil society organizations, we strengthen the government’s emergency and ongoing response at all levels.
Our support has included operationalizing nationwide COVID-19 policies, rolling out vaccines, helping facilities access national COVID-19 financing and testing kits, strengthening the capacities of health workers on infection prevention and control and case management, improving contact tracing, and supporting risk communication and community engagement efforts. Most recently, ReachHealth has helped the country prepare for the roll out of child vaccines and the safe reopening of in-person schools.
Since ReachHealth began supporting the Philippines' pandemic response, we have trained over 20,000 people and reached nearly 37 million people with messages on preventing gender-based violence and COVID-19’s spread.
Here are eight of the important ways we have and continue to respond to COVID-19 in the Philippines:
1. Strengthening community health and support systems
Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams, or BHERTs, usually connect community members to health facilities — but during times of emergency their work becomes more important than ever. These neighborhood-based teams formed the frontline of efforts to delay COVID-19’s spread and locally contain the pandemic by communicating risk, facilitating contact tracing and vaccination, and connecting communities with broader local health systems. ReachHealth works to ensure BHERTs in hotspot communities are active, effective, and trained on critical elements of the COVID-19 community response, including essential behaviors to prevent the virus’ spread, infection prevention and control, vaccination and testing protocols, contact tracing, and quarantine and isolation. ReachHealth has helped train over 7,800 people on contact tracing and rapid response so far.
2. Increasing vaccine coverage
In 2021, ReachHealth collaborated with the DOH and local actors to plan for vaccine rollouts. We developed public messaging for local governments to spread the word, updated FAQs for community health responders like BHERTs, and supported health facility planning and preparation. Once vaccines were available, ReachHealth also helped speed up the roll out by deploying 28 mobile vaccine teams across the country to ensure even the most remote communities got access. ReachHealth has established or supported over 200 vaccination sites in the Philippines. More than 2.8 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated with ReachHealth’s support.